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Writer Scott Z. Burns Explains How 'Side Effects' Is A Sequel To 'Lolita'

Photo of Kevin Jagernauth By Kevin Jagernauth | The Playlist November 7, 2012 at 4:16PM

Last week, the trailer for Steven Soderbergh's penultimate "Side Effects" arrived and it was pretty crackling stuff. Both exciting and eerie, it promises a thriller that will be a bit of twisty psychological thriller, and indeed the film's writer Scott Z. Burns (who also penned the Soderbergh directed "Contagion") reveals a variety of intriguing influences on the picture.
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Side Effects Rooney Mara Channing Tatum

Last week, the trailer for Steven Soderbergh's penultimate "Side Effects" arrived and it was pretty crackling stuff. Both exciting and eerie, it promises a thriller that will be a bit of twisty psychological thriller, and indeed the film's writer Scott Z. Burns (who also penned the Soderbergh directed "Contagion") reveals a variety of intriguing influences on the picture.

Starring Rooney Mara, Channing Tatum, Jude Law and Catherine Zeta-Jones, the movie tracks the encroaching paranoia of a young woman whose anxiety goes up when her husband is released from prison. As for what happens beyond that, Burns only teased to EW, “If you believe that’s what the trailer says, I’m not going to disabuse you of that. But I think there’s two or three more layers on top of that.” But Burns reveals that the simple fact that antidepressants are some of the best selling drugs in the country planted the seed for the movie.

"There’s a certain kind of complexity to human behavior, and when you layer in the fact that now we have the camouflage of drugs that can change your mood state, that was where we started. We wanted to make a movie that was sort of in the tradition of a Hitchcock mindfuck," he explained. But it's not just the master of suspense who the flimmakers are tipped to here, as Burns reveals the "operating principle" of Roman Polanski's "Repulsion" was also imporant....as was, intriguingly, Vladimir Nabakov's "Lolita." Moreover, he says "Side Effects" is something of a followup to the ideas in that acclaimed book.

"This was in some ways a kindred spirit and sequel to what Nabokov may have been doing in 'Lolita.' Obviously Rooney isn’t that young; she’s not a teenager in this movie," Burns explains. "But I think that when girls get sexualized as teenagers and then they get older, there’s a whole set of behaviors that they learn that allow them to manipulate the world around them. And they’re given those tools largely by men who want to be manipulated."

It sounds like there is going to be some tremendous gender and sexual power play going on here all in the guise of B-movie potboiler. Needless to say, we're stoked. "Side Effects" fills the prescription on February 8, 2013.

This article is related to: Scott Z. Burns, Side Effects


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